ADEDAPO PAUL AKINTUNDE: AN ARCHITECT, DESIGNER AND AUTHOR
Adedapo Paul Akintunde, the Managing Director of Ivixi Design Movement Ltd., studied Architecture at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), graduating with distinction in his final year design studio presentation. While there, he was also known for his artistic talent, and went on to study Vehicle Design at the Royal College of Arts, London, graduating in 1994. His schoolmates included renowned British/Ghanaian architect David Adjaye and Turner Prize-winning painter Chris Ofili. After studying car designing and working in the UK for some time, he returned to Nigeria and to architecture, rising to become the Group Creative Design Director of Design Union Consulting and a director of several other architectural establishments. Akintunde is also an author and his writings feature on several architectural blogs and well known social media platforms.
You studied architecture, graduating with a distinction. What led you to this discipline and is there any architect in your family?
I have an uncle on my mum’s side who is a brilliant and amazingly talented architect. I also used to have an amazingly talented sculptor uncle on my dad’s side, so I guess it runs in the family.
Some of your drawings for buildings have been likened to those of Erich Mendelsohn, the Jewish-German architect known for his expressionist architecture. What is your design aesthetic?
My design aesthetic is modernist African; not African in a literal way of large thatched roofs but in terms of material use, line, form and application. I am well versed in pure design techniques and I bring these into my work– a lot of contrast, metaphor and dynamic movement.
Can you be called a modernist architect?
Yes, I am modernist in that I shun any ornament in my design and allow the composition of the functional requirements of the scheme to suggest the expression. I am an African modernist.
What materials re-occur in your buildings and is there any particular reason for this?
At the moment I am trying to build very cheap buildings so I’m very frugal with concrete and glass. However, as I get more lucrative commissions, I will use much more of these materials. I like the sheer, geometric possibilities they offer. I use plenty of paint and would also like to work more with wood, but one needs master craftsmanship for this, which can be tricky. The best craftsmen are often too busy and hence need a lot of management.
How different or similar is the architecture and design practice in Nigeria and London?
Nigerian practice is much smaller. In England, many architects work on any one job at the same time, this allows them to be more detailed. Budgets in Nigeria are smaller, hence less architects per job. Hopefully, this will change.
What prompted your return to Nigeria after years of working in London?
I only went to London to experience working as a designer at the top level as opportunities to do this in Nigeria were limited. Once I had achieved this, it was time to express this experience in Nigerian context to solve our own issues. I’ve been successfully doing this for nearly a decade now.
If you were to spend a month in the studio, working closely with any of these international architects and artists: Leonardo da Vinci, Antoni Gaudi, Oscar Niemeyer, Erich Mendelsohn, Le Corbusier, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Frank Lloyd Wright and Rem Koolhas, who would it be and why?
Definitely Oscar Niemeyer, his challenges were similar to mine and I can relate to his sensibilities. Hadid and da Vinci also. Gaudi is a great influence on me too. Wright, I admire and understand. Le Corbusier as well but Koolhas, I don’t get at all.
You studied vehicle design at the Royal College of Arts, London, the world’s leading centre for this course. What led you to this?
I always sketched cars, trucks, helicopters and planes, and was excited to see the work of the RCA students in the AutoCar magazine. I thought, wow! I belonged there, applied and was accepted.
While at RCA, where there other Africans studying this course?
There were no other Africans on the course when I was there. It was a strictly an industry allied and monitored programme, and we did not have that industry in Africa, then.
Do you see a future for this specialty in Nigeria and Africa?
Our future relies heavily on this specialty in Nigeria and Africa for so many reasons, though too many to go into here.
Did you get to intern or work in any automobile company?
I first started out as a computer designer for Opel in Germany but I wasn’t too keen as I wanted to do concept work, and so ended up in a concept design agency and consultancy in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.
Do you see any transition from sketch to prototype and final production soon?
Hmmm… easier said than done!
Have you received production offers for some of your concept cars and are you in talks with any automobile company?
Auto makers don’t work like that.
Have you designed any special cars for Nigerian roads, climate and way of life?
Yes I have… as concepts though.
Do you think solar powered cars can work for Nigeria and when do you think we can achieve this?
Solar powered cars are our natural bonus. We need to create our own solar systems though. Maybe it’s a discussion that we should revisit as we need solar to be our main powering energy for housing and everything else.
You are also a writer and have authored The Next 50: Advancement by Design. What inspired this book?
The Next 50 was simply to lay out the things we need to be a great nation; the mindset needed and the things that it could spawn. The concepts therein will always be relevant and enabling.
Comic strips are also part of your work. What inspired them, was this a way of spending leisure time creatively, and are you also going to publish comic books?
I have always been a better visual communicator than a verbal one, hence the comics. I’m happy for any possible joint ventures…
Comic strips from full book
You are known for your poems and ‘words of wisdom’ on social media. Can you share your thoughts on the relationship between art and architecture?
(Laughs!) What I’ll say is long but here goes! Clients here deserve great architecture. How is this achieved? Is it subjective? No it isn’t. If it was, the whole world wouldn’t have elected or celebrated the architecture icons as they have done since antiquity, as well as propagated their works. Who is a great architect? The great architect is an artist. Who is an artist? An artist is a person who captures a slice of existence and frames it for evaluation, analysis, function, and entertainment, to enchant, excite, serve, educate, shelter and introspect on the myriad of things that living, existence and the journey of living is. Hence the art of the architect is what imbues architecture with qualities lacking in unframed, un-artistic architecture. Hence the poor quality of mind will not know the difference and continue to invest in meaningless buildings that will be demolished to give way to well considered, manicured and artistically derived architecture that frames existence, invites tourists, has educational and historical significance, and provides a return on the investment made to realise it. There are few who will ever understand this, or even the need for it. After all, we have discussed quality-of-mind issues, the scope of which is impossible to delve into now, as that is covered by millions of texts, writings and other forms of researched endeavour.
You straddle the world of architecture, art and design. Which one will you probably grow old practising?
They are all the same although art is the ‘baba’ of them all (laughs)!
Future eye wear for driving
Adedapo Akintunde at a football match. Image credits: Adedapo Akintunde
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